Uma Rajah, chief executive of CapitalRise, on how she got started in the property industry, her book and film recommendations, what she would do with a million pounds and the most ridiculous fact she knows.
How did you join the property industry?
I pursued my first fintech start-up straight out of business school in 2007 and enjoyed building and developing some of the first digital lending platforms, including Wonga. In 2015, I was approached by Alex Michelin, one of the founders of international design and development firm Finchatton, about building a specialist lending business focused on providing prime residential property finance. I was delighted to set up CapitalRise with Alex and our other co-founder Andrew Dunn.
What does your job entail?
As chief executive of CapitalRise, I am responsible for the day-to-day running and growth of the business. One of my roles is to sit on the credit committee, and together with the committee members, we rigorously analyse all new lending opportunities with only the very best being approved. I, and my co-founders, invest personally in every loan, which I think has contributed to our spotless track record: zero losses and zero investment defaults since inception.
What do you like the most about the property industry?
I enjoy working in the prime property industry and, in my opinion, it is the most exciting sector. It allows us to fund some of the most beautiful property assets in the best locations in London and the home counties. The prime central London residential market is so unique and distinct from the rest of the UK market and has a reputation for being the most resilient due to its unique demand/supply characteristics and dynamics. I find this most fascinating.
And what do you dislike most about it?
I don’t dislike anything, but working in the industry has its odd frustrations. Having worked in other industries, I would say that the property finance sector can be quite old-fashioned and slow to change, particularly when it comes to embracing technology. But I can’t complain about this, as this is what provides the opportunity for firms like CapitalRise to innovate.
What are you most proud of in your career?
What we have achieved at CapitalRise so far. The funding we have provided to borrowers has helped to develop well over half a billion pounds worth of prime property across Central London (eg Mayfair, Belgravia and Chelsea), prime outer London (eg Wimbledon, Hampstead and St John’s Wood) and the prime home counties (eg St George’s Hill, Wentworth and Beaconsfield). It is really rewarding to feel we have played a part in helping them to deliver their vision and support the growth of their businesses.
What do you value in people?
As we are a fast-growing, agile, tech-enabled firm, I value people who have an entrepreneurial mindset, are customer-focused and thrive on change. To successfully scale a business in an FCA-regulated sector like ours requires people who are passionate about what they do and are experts in their field.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Do something that you are passionate about and that plays to your strengths. Look for roles that allow you to develop new skills and enable you to learn about the industry in which you work. Make the most of every opportunity you are given.